“We’re about helping people fund their financial dreams. That is the brand differentiation for credit unions. It’s about their needs, not our profit.” – Tony Hildesheim at THINK 14

Q: What did you think of THINK?

A: THINK was excellent, as always. This was my third, maybe fourth, THINK conference, and they just get better and better every year. THINK really is an opportunity for people to separate themselves out of their day to day routine and expand their notion of what the credit union movement is about — not just [in terms of] technology and what CO-OP does, but what consumers are doing and how their behavior can affect what credit unions offer as services.

Q: Have you been able to bring back any of the enthusiasm and ideas?

A: The enthusiasm, without a doubt. That’s the nice thing.

Q: What were your big takeaways this year?

A: Debbie Millman said that credit unions have a noble purpose, and we should be able to articulate it – as a movement, to our constituents and consumers. We talked about that on stage during the panel discussion I participated in, and I’ve continued to think about it. What are credit unions about? And how do we tell that story?

The other idea that was fascinating to me was: How do we ensure that we understand the customer experience? Kate Feather talked about that, and I thought that was a phenomenal session. I think that’s the right question to be asking: What is the consumer experience?

Credit unions more than anybody else have the chance to capitalize on that opportunity. You hear people saying all the time that they belong to a credit union; they’re part of a credit union. They don’t say that about banks.

Q: You have a clear interest in member experience and you work in IT. Does this dual focus come naturally to you?

I came from banking before this and worked for the government before that. There, I saw a real separation between what happened in the back office and what happened in the front office. Never before did I really connect how critical what we do is to the member experience — but of course it is. We serve those who serve the members. But more than that, we have to ask every day: Are we meeting member experience expectations? And if not, how do we do that?

Q: Having a big-picture orientation seems like a very THINK approach. Do you see this approach in action at your credit union?

A: Our president and CEO Brett Martinez definitely has this mindset. It’s everybody’s job to think about the member experience. We actually initiated a project here called The Total Member Experience. We have a social site where all employees can post ideas and everyone can comment and vote thumbs up or thumbs down. We use this tool that lets the most popular and compelling ideas float to the top.

The site has enabled us to set priorities, and it’s given us a place to ask, “What do members really need? Or, how do we help members with that?” It really is revolutionizing to see the roles of the front office and back office coming together to meet members’ needs. For me, it’s one of the most exciting things we have going on at the credit union. It’s been very rewarding to see it start to flourish.

Hear more ideas on the credit union brand promise from Debbie Millman here. Read about Kate Feather’s presentation at THINK 14 here.